Sep 22, 2020

Preview of an Innovative Housing Model: Envision Community

Family Housing Fund is proud to support Envision Community, a demonstration project of a new type of housing that prioritizes the perspectives of people who face housing instability. Envision Community’s design began with detailed engagement and financial analysis to understand what people experiencing homelessness want, need, and can afford.

Since housing instability significantly impacts health outcomes and increases healthcare utilization costs, Envision Community plans to build an intentionally supportive community to promote economic, social, and physical healing. The effort to make this vision a reality is staffed primarily by people who have past or present lived experience with homelessness.

Last year, the Minneapolis City Council amended the zoning code to allow nonprofits, governments, and healthcare agencies to build collections of small housing units. Envision Community leaders advocated for this change in order to allow the development of their demonstration project. When complete, the first Envision Community will house 16-24 people in 8-12 microhomes with a common kitchen facility. If proven successful, it will serve as a model that can be replicated.

Family Housing Fund supported the Envision Community collaborative’s capacity building efforts last year and is now supporting its efforts to acquire a site for development. We recently toured a prototype home, currently set up on land owned by a Northeast Minneapolis church. While the prototype is simple, it is designed for comfort – with energy efficiency features to keep the space temperate and cozy interior design that supports living large in a small space. A home that does not feel like an institution is a high priority for Envision Community leaders, so exterior finishes and interior furnishing are designed for customization by the residents.

The unit is designed around a utility core that will be built in a facility off-site, and the walls are thickly insulated for energy efficiency. Envision is now redesigning the units so that each resident will have a private bath, rather than sharing bathing facilities, in alignment with COVID-19 precautions.

With increased visible homelessness and public attention to the health risks that homeless populations face during the pandemic, the Envision demonstration project is now more urgently needed than ever. The Envision Community collaborative, working with managing nonprofit partner Tasks Unlimited and a growing group of collaborators, is actively searching for a site to purchase and aims to build its community by spring 2021.

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